MORRISVILLE >> The Yardleyville Protective Company for the Pursuit and Detection of Horse Thieves and other Villains, affectionately known as “Horse Thieves,” galloped into its 153rd year with an evening of tradition and some good natured horseplay.

President Hank Crawford gaveled the meeting to order continuing a tradition dating back to the days before law enforcement where “horse companies” like Yardleyville and its neighbor to the west, the Newtown Reliant Company, formed posses, circulated wanted posters and tracked down villains and other scoundrels.

Wearing top hats, the officers and board of directors of the organization sat behind a long table overlooking the banquet hall and a wooden gallows, a symbol of the company’s vigilante past although there is no known instances that the company ever hung a villain.

Years ago, before the advent of organized law enforcement, the company served as a vigilante organization, coming together to help with the recovery of real stolen horses and personal property. And in the case of Yardleyville, which doubled as an insurance company, paid out claims for stolen livestock, horses and possessions.

Today, the members and leaders of the organization keep the organization alive by meeting annually for dinner and an evening of horseplay and just plain fun.

As members and guests prepared for a banquet of salmon, beef and chicken, Secretary Laura Foulds read excerpts from the 2019 meeting while director Lisa Pellegrino reached back in history sharing excerpts from the year 1920 contained in the organization’s original leather bound minute book, which has been passed down from the very first meeting.

A century ago at the 63rd Annual Meeting, Pellegrino reported that T.S. Cadwallader, the grandfather of present day member Tom Cadwallader, called the meeting to order at 3 p.m. at the Odd Fellows Hall, today’s Yardley Community Centre.

The following bills were ordered paid: secretary salary, $5; printing, $3; hall rent, $10; Alva Smith for dinners, $90.75; Robert Scott for chickens stolen in June, $48; Chas M. Eanus for goods stolen in July, $20; and TS Cadwallader for travel expenses to Doylestown to witness the trial of four villains who were captured, $6.

Continuing its tradition of hearing claims - but very seldom paying them out - Director Ralph Nuzzolo introduced a submission by fellow director Lisa Pellegrino.

In the claim, Pellegrino said during a party last June celebrating her daughter’s high school graduation, a silver-plated dolphin bottle opener nicknamed “Darwin” went missing. It was last seen next to a beer cooler.

“After the event, Darwin was no where to be found. Was he accidentally thrown away? Did he swim to the ocean to find his parents? Or was he pilfered by a horse thief or other villain? His absent wasn’t felt much until the holiday season began and we had to intoxicate ourselves in order to survive an extended stay by out of town relatives.”

Pellegrino submitted a claim for $411, including $9 for a new bottle opener, $2 for a replacement bottle of beer and $400 for emergency room services, the result of trying to open a bottle of beer without Darwin’s help.

Nuzzolo reported that after the board of directors took the claim under consideration, it decided to award Pellegrino a bottle of spring water with a twist on cap and a blue dolphin bottle gripper “showing the claimant the one true path to sobriety in 2020” and a safer, more modern way of opening bottles.

The horse theme continued as President Crawford stepped to the floor to present the company’s third Horse’s Ass Award. This year’s lucky recipient was Rich Cole, the president of the Yardley Business Association and longtime company member.

Judge Mick Petrucci also swore in two new detectives to help track down this year’s “villain.” Sworn in to serve the company were Mike Fair and Doug Wright.

The company also welcomed 44 new members and remembered four of its members who passed away in 2019, including Bruce Winslade, 61, an electrician at Shady Brook Farm, the founder of the farm’s car show and a member of the Newtown Reliance Company; Joseph Pellegrino, 88, a US Army veteran of the Korean War and a retired Conrail supervisor; Herbert Young, 90, a retired businessman and past president of the Levittown-Fairless Hills Rotary Club and the Yardley Community Centre; and Patricia Miiller, 80, who director Nuzzolo called “a significant force” in the horse company.

As a special tribute to Pat, guest Sarah Shoffler shared memories of her friend and colleague, who was a more than 40 year member of the Horse Company and a strong advocate for quality child care and early childhood education in Pennsylvania.

Shoffler, who met Pat in 2001, said Pat “had such a clear vision about everything she was doing, whether it was history, her garden, or her big stuff like writing the early childhood standards. Pat loved to learn. She was always interested in new books, new events, new people and new places.”

In the words of Roseanne Fry, who was very involved with Pat in the Association for the Education of Young Children in Bucks County, “For everyone who knew Pat, it’s fair to say she was a force of nature. Her work on behalf of early childhood education is legendary and it’s difficult to name an early childhood education initiative in Pennsylvania that Pat did not play an integral role in.”

In memory of Pat, each attendee received a two year pocket calendar to record their appointments. “Pat always had a calendar with her to put all of her appointments in. And inside, there’s a little packet of Forget Me Not seeds you can plant in the spring in Pat’s honor,” said Crawford.

The company also earmarked the proceeds from the banquet’s 50/50 to the Quality Childcare Coalition’s Pat Miiller Professional Development Fund, which will support early childhood educators in Bucks County.

After the routine business of the evening concluded, the real horseplay began as Don Bader, portraying a Sheriff, along with his trusty steed and the company’s detectives burst into the room on a mission to track down this year’s “villain.”

Roaming among the tables, the sheriff searched high and low until finally weeding out this year’s villain - the company’s own secretary, Laura Foulds.

Bader escorted Foulds to the front of the banquet room where real life Newtown area Judge Mick Petrucci read the charges being levied against her as shouts of “Hang ‘Em” permeated the room.

Petrucci quickly found Foulds guilty of giving her time to the community through Scouting and her church and to the Yardleyville Protective Company.

Foulds, who has been involved with Scouting at both the district and local levels since 1989, has held most positions in the organization, including committee chair, advancement, Cubmaster, etc., but the most rewarding position has been that of Scoutmaster of Troop 210, sponsored by St. John Lutheran Church from 2005 to 2014.

She continues to be involved in Scouting with Troop 210, assisting with advancement including Eagle Scouts, but also working with a newly formed Venture Crew 210 - young men and women 14 to 20 years old hdedicated to service in the community and to pursuing adventures around the area and working towards more adventures in the future.

For her efforts, she was awarded the Silver Beaver award through Bucks County Council, now Washington Crossing Council, and the Four Chaplin’s recognition.

In addition, she has been an active member of St. John’s Lutheran Church since 1997 where she has assisted with various teams and ministry duties, including assistant minister, choir member, service team and Church Council. She has served as church treasurer since 2012 and coordinator of volunteers, delivering food collected from the community to the Emergency Relief Association in Levittown.

She’s also actively involved with the American Legion Auxiliary.

Foulds retired in 2012 after a 32 year career with the Pennsylvania American Water Company, working as a Customer Service Supervisor of the Southeastern area and then as Operations Supervisor of the Yardley District responsible for field operations during the three historic floods that hit the Yardley Area in the early 2000s.

Following the horseplay, the evening took on an hypnotic tone with New Jersey’s own Stephen Christopher leaving everyone spell bound.

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Mark your calendar. Next year’s 154th Annual Meeting will come to order on Saturday, January 9, 2021. And in the meantime, make sure your horses are well fed and housed in a secure location to avoid having to call on the services of the Yardleyville Protective Company.

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